Courtesy of Chris Chase
FTW: Have to start with the Bieber roast. How do you get invited to that and more importantly, how does Martha Stewart get invited to that?
Shaquille O’Neal: Justin is a personal friend of mine so he called me himself and said he just wanted his favorite people roasting him so I guess everyone on stage were just a bunch of his favorite people.
FTW: You were quite good. Vulgar, which I liked, and quite good to boot. What was your favorite joke that was edited out.
Shaquille O’Neal: There were so many, but my favorite joke of the night was when Jeff Ross said “Shaq, you’re the original 2 Chainz because that’s how you came into the country.” That was freaking hilarious. (Laughs.)
FTW: Another joke that was told was you telling Chris Paul his Clippers suck. They’re 5-1 since that aired, so I’m wondering, do the Clippers still suck?
Shaquille O’Neal: Naw, I was just joking. I’ve known Chris Paul since high school and he’s a good friend of mine and he has a great sense of humor.
FTW: Speaking of roasting, and this is just my opinion — the current state of trash talking in the NBA seems to have slipped from the golden era of the 1990s. Do you think it’s fallen? Seems to me there’s more trash talk on the set of Inside the NBA than there is on the actual court.
Shaquille O’Neal: Trash talking has slipped 60%. I know a lot of the players are worried about getting fined, but for me, growing up, you had to trash talk. I didn’t play against kids, I played against guys on the army base. Gary Payton — one of the world’s greatest trash talkers — grew up in Oakland, the mean streets of Oakland. But they say lot of the legends were great trash talkers. I was talking to Isiah [Thomas] once and he said Larry Bird was an unbelievable trash talker. Like Larry Bird used to say stuff like, “I’m gonna take one dribble, pump-fake you and even if you don’t go for it, I’m going to shoot it the second time and it’s going to be all net.” And he’d do it.
FTW: Who was the best trash talker of your era.
Shaquille O’Neal: GP. GP and Kevin Garnett.
FTW: Do you have any regrets about the way you went out of the game?
Shaquille O’Neal: I did go out on top, but the only thing I regret is getting hurt my last year because I was on pace to pass Wilt Chamberlain [in points]. Once I passed Wilt, I was going to go on a “Shaq is the most dominant ever, I don’t want to hear about it” tour. I already passed him in championships, I just wanted to pass him in points. I know people will say, “yeah, but he averaged 50 one season,” but I scored more. That’s my only regret.
FTW: What about the NBA this year? Can the Warriors break though? Are the Spurs back right in time?
Shaquille O’Neal: Put it this way: I see Chicago and Cleveland in the Eastern Conference Finals, I don’t know how the bracket will go with the Spurs, but hopefully they’ll be in the Western Conference Finals. And then it’ll be old versus new. I played on a veteran team like the Spurs where you start slow, then pick it up.
FTW: I know your colleagues at Turner were doing NCAA tournament stuff over the past few weeks. Who do you think the best pro will be?
Shaquille O’Neal: That’s a tricky question, but it’s similar to ’92. Christian Laettner was way better than I was: poised, more fundamentally sound. But it depends on who gets the first pick, but I still think [Jahlil] Okafor will go No. 2. But when it comes to all around play, Frank Kaminsky was the best college player. That’s how it was for me in ’92. Laettner was way better than me.
FTW: So how big an issue did you have with him being on the Dream Team, knowing he was better than you at the time but that you’d be the better pro?
Shaquille O’Neal: I had problems with it, but he won all the awards, he won all the championships, but it just worked out that I was were more dominant in the NBA.
FTW: This new 30 for 30 with you and Dale Brown is great. What’s the story behind the making of this doc?
Shaquille O’Neal: First, the beautiful Hannah Storm [who directed] asked me and I can never tell Hannah no. She’s a great producer. And it’s a story that some people know but a lot of people don’t. My father told Dale Brown to take care me and he helped turn me into the man I became. He’s a great man. He’s one of the only coaches in the country who stuck up for me. A lot of coaches would say “just play through it” when I got hard fouls, but Dale would run down the court and I’d have to tell him … coach, [realax].
FTW: Some of the clips are amazing. I remember you playing in college but forgot how much they pounded you inside. How did you keep your cool?
Shaquille O’Neal: I learned early on to take it as a sign of respect. I know when a guy is playing hard and I know when he’s playing dirty. A hard foul is cool, but the dirty foul done correctly could almost end a person’s career.
FTW: During that time, and during your time in the NBA, did you ever envision yourself doing TV? Or did you always know that was your path?
Shaquille O’Neal: Actually, I signed a two-year deal in Boston and the first year I was going to play it out. Then the last year I was going to start doing the retirement tour, sit in the arenas, sit in the chairs, get the gifts, but my career quickly ended with the Achilles. I was at the hospital and I got the call from ESPN. I interviewed with them both [ESPN and Turner] and Atlanta was closer to Orlando [where he lives] and I didn’t want to have to travel from east to west, so I’ll travel to Atlanta once a week, I figured.